False fossils could hamper search for life on Mars

If you’re an interplanetary alien hunter scouring the red expanses of Mars for signs of life, you’re more likely to come across microbes than little green men. You’re even more likely to come across fossils of ancient critters that lived billions of years ago. But new research warns that chemical processes can create “pseudofossils”, potentially … Continue reading False fossils could hamper search for life on Mars

Venus never had oceans, climate model shows

New research has revealed that Venus may have been too hot to ever form oceans on its surface. In many ways, our neighbouring planet is very similar to Earth. It’s a rocky planet of about the same size, and it has an atmosphere and some water. But its atmosphere is thick and predominantly made up … Continue reading Venus never had oceans, climate model shows

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Methane on Enceladus might hint at alien life In the vast ocean beneath the icy crust of Saturn’s moon Enceladus, a mysterious process is churning out methane – and it could be a sign that life teems in the subsurface world, according to a new study in Nature Astronomy. In 2005, the Cassini spacecraft discovered … Continue reading You may have missed…

Bayesian statistics and the hunt for ET

One of the goals of the next generation of giant telescopes, now rapidly nearing completion, is to scour the nearby heavens for stars whose planets show signs of life. If they find even a single such a world, Amedeo Balbi of the University of Rome Tor Vergata and Claudio Grimaldi of the Swiss Federal Institute … Continue reading Bayesian statistics and the hunt for ET

Is anybody down there?

The question of whether or not we are alone in the Universe has always fascinated me, but when I was a student the idea of searching for aliens was regarded as decidedly crackpot. One might as well have professed an interest in looking for fairies. The prevailing scientific opinion in the 1970s was well captured … Continue reading Is anybody down there?

The origins of life in hot springs

50 years ago, a meteorite landed in Victoria carrying many of the building blocks for life, including amino acids, nucleobases and lipids. These organic molecules formed when compounds in stardust, which had collected on the meteorite, reacted under low temperatures and UV light as it passed through space. Many astrobiologists think the origins of life … Continue reading The origins of life in hot springs

Mars rovers tested in Flinders Ranges

A UNSW astrobiologist has put the technology of NASA’s soon-to-be-launched Perseverance Rover to the test to find out how it will fare detecting signs of life on Mars. And in a paper published in respected journal Astrobiology recently, UNSW Sydney’s Bonnie Teece says the technology hits the mark. Teece, along with scientists from Macquarie University … Continue reading Mars rovers tested in Flinders Ranges